Scott brothers to exec produce miniseries

Tony and Ridley Scott are bringing Michael Crichton’s 1969 bestseller “The Andromeda Strain” to A&E, as the net increases its push into original programming.

Brothers will exec produce the miniseries for the net based on Crichton’s story of extraterrestrial germs run amok. Director-cinematographer Mikael Solomon will direct from a script by Robert Schenkkan (“The Quiet American”).

Project is set to go into production this summer. David Zucker and Tom Thayer are also exec producing.

While “Andromeda” was initially billed as a four-hour event, execs later acknowledged it could run up to six hours.

Ridley Scott will be taking the lead on the project based on Crichton’s first tome. Comments Scott made for a video interview were shown to ad buyers at the network’s upfront Tuesday in Gotham.

News continues a parade of top-name directors and talent to cable. The Scott brothers are prolific action directors and collaborate occasionally on TV fare, teaming for current CBS hit “Numbers” as well as for 1999 HBO movie “RKO 281.”

Overall, net announced Tuesday that it will invest about $600 million in new projects and technology this year, up about 20% over last year; that number will include infrastructure as well as content.

Among those new projects is a scripted series development slate, from which the net likely plans to produce at least one show that it will air sometime in 2008.

That series would be the first scripted original on the cabler since “Centre Street” seven years ago.

Executive veep and general manager Bob DeBitetto said the net previously wanted to take its shots with less expensive reality programming before venturing into scripted fare. “We couldn’t do it all at once,” he said.

The five-project scripted development slate includes a host of crime- and cop-centric dramas. Among them are “The Cleaner,” about a former addict who forces others to get clean; “The Beast,” about a pair of unorthodox FBI agents; the L.A. police drama “Homestead”; the U.S. Marshal skein “Takedown”; and “Under,” about a mob informant who becomes a New York City cop.

About 70% of shows in development will center on crime and cops as the net hopes to build a lead-in audience from acquired shows “CSI: Miami” and “The Sopranos.”

Net also announced that it has greenlit nonscripted forensics show “Crime 360,” which will combine verite footage and CG images to re-enact criminal investigations, and “The Rookies,” about a group of young policemen in post-Katrina Louisiana.

Finally, its tattoo-parlor drama “Inked” will yield a spinoff, “The Pendletons,” which has been given a pilot deal.

News comes on top of two series that have already been announced — celebreality skein “The Two Coreys” and campus-supernatural unscripted “Paranormal State” — as well as a number of pilot and development deals.

Net will also develop two Web-original series, “Dog 2.0″ and “Nick’s World,” both based on existing series, “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Family Jewels,” respectively.

A&E has enjoyed a banner year thanks in part to “The Sopranos,” an expensive acquisition that has thus far paid off in the ratings, and to nonscripted originals like “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

The net jumped ratings by 21% last year among adults 18-49 to vault into the top 10 in that demo.

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